As mobile internet speeds increase, Africans are spending more time streaming

Around 2015, when video-on-demand services were introduced to the Kenyan mobile market (fiber to the home was already a “thing” in Kenya’s urban centers by the end of the Naughties), several providers partnered with carriers. mobile phone to optimize bandwidth for faster download speeds.

However, from time to time, many subscribers would be forced to move closer to wireless hotspots, less crowded places, or wait until late at night when traffic was low to watch their favorite movies or TV shows on their smartphones, thanks to irregular Internet connectivity and the wide variety of speeds in the country.

“During this time, it would take a long time for online videos to start playing, they would also stop several times during playback and the picture quality was not that clear,” recalled Justus Ontita, a Netflix subscriber from Kenya and budding gospel artist in an interview with bird.

Today, many people in Africa can seamlessly watch their favorite movies and TV shows on YouTube and other streaming apps like Netflix without worrying too much about buffering. They can also listen to their favorite songs on platforms like Boomplay and Spotify, either in a Wi-Fi hotspot or via mobile data.

“Things have changed significantly over the years. It is now easier and more affordable for budding musicians like me to upload videos and spread them across numerous streaming platforms that are helping to reach a global audience,” said Ontita.

Increasing investments in submarine cables by government and private actors, the proliferation of mobile and associated services, and rapid growth in demand are helping to increase Internet speeds on the continent.

The movement of work and leisure online due to the Covid-19 outbreak further fueled demand.

Remote meetings and work calls on services like Zoom require at least 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps) for people to make good-quality group video calls, while the recommended speed for streaming ultra-high-definition (UHD) on Netflix it is 15 Mbps (5 Mbps for HD).

For mobile gaming, which is also growing rapidly on the continent, speeds between 3 and 5 Mbps are considered fast enough for a smooth experience (although latency, the speed it takes for data to transfer between its original source and its destination, is also key to Internet games, particularly group games).

A 2021 study commissioned by newzooa game analysis company and carry 1sta South African gaming platform, shows that the number of gamers in sub-Saharan Africa has risen to 186 million, with the majority of gamers (95 percent) using mobile phones to play games.

Jay Shapiro, CEO of Nairobi-based Usiku Games, said in an interview that “data lite” casual 2D games like Candy Crush, Wordle and Angry Birds make up the majority of what is played in Africa, but for these, internet speed is not a big deal.

“For those games, connectivity is very important, but the speed of that connectivity is not critical. These are so pervasive because Africa is a mobility-first continent,” Shapiro said.

There is also a minority population of Africans who play data-intensive games where speeds do matter. These games, Shapiro projected, will increase as people get more powerful devices and connect to high-speed Internet.

“In Kenya we have excellent connectivity with solid 4G speeds covering almost the entire country. There is a huge push for 5G networks to roll out now, much faster here than in the West because of our relationships with China, Huawei, so things are only going to get better,” Shapiro said.

Kenya is now among the 13 African countries with an average mobile internet speed of more than 25 Mbps.

According to the latest speed test world index Per Ookla, a broadband and mobile network intelligence company, South Africa has the fastest average mobile internet speed in Africa, at 58.55 Mbps.

Mauritius (48 Mbps) and Morocco (45.24 Mbps) ranked second and third in Africa, respectively, allowing their mobile audiences to seamlessly stream video content.

Togo (43.31Mbps), Botswana (35.81Mbps), Tunisia (34.27Mbps), Ethiopia (34.15Mbps), Angola (33.28Mbps), Egypt (29.15Mbps) and Mozambique (28.81Mbps) complete the list of the 10 countries with the fastest mobile internet speeds in Africa.

The global average download speed for mobile devices is 74.87 Mbps, which means that the best performing countries in Africa still lag behind the rest of the world. However, there are signs that mobile internet speeds on the continent are increasing faster than elsewhere.

A glaring omission from the top 10 was Africa’s largest mobile market, Nigeria. The main economy of the continent saw its average mobile speed increase from 22.73 Mbps in April 2021 to the current 25.99 Mbps, which is not enough to reach the top category and is a potential accelerator in key sectors of the economy. , like its booming entertainment sector.

Not all tests are created equal, either.

“Kano showed the fastest average mobile download speed among Nigeria’s most populous cities during the first quarter of 2022 at 19.31 Mbps,” according to the global speed test index.

According to Ookla, most African countries saw an improvement in speeds, with Mauritius seeing the largest margin increase, almost doubling the average mobile speed (vs 25.14 Mbps in April 2021) and moving up 17 positions in the ranking. world.

Ethiopia, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Somalia all saw their global rankings increase by at least six positions due to increased mobile internet speeds.

These higher speeds are resulting in users spending more time streaming content.

Online Video Analytics Company, live togethershowed in its Q3 2021 State of Broadcasting report that Africa saw the largest increase in viewing time, at 273%, compared to a global average increase of 21%, in terms of year-over-year growth.

The majority of viewing time was spent on large screens (mainly smart TVs) at 57%, while computer viewing was at 19% and mobile viewing at 18%.

“Buffering, when video pauses during playback so it can be reloaded, improved across the board with Africa seeing the biggest benefit, down 78%,” according to the report.

While total minutes per play in Africa (13.21) was the second lowest after Asia (10.74), the continent saw the largest increase in total minutes per play, at 153%.

Rolling out fiber optics to more schools through collaborative efforts between governments and non-governmental organizations and creating regulations that allow satellite internet providers like Starlink to operate in markets like Kenya have been pointed to as some of the ways they will strengthen high speed internet access. to remote parts of the continent.

Shapiro also called for a further push for high-speed mobile Internet penetration.

“The adoption of 5G fixed wireless technology by telcos on a competitive basis, or possibly allowing a new market entrant to provide just that, to avoid the need for costly trenching to reach remote communities” , said. – bird story agency

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